How Big Data Is Making Even Bigger Opportunities for Digital Industries

Big Data is a big buzzword these days, and for good reason: we’re generating astonishing amounts of data, and we’re using that data to create massive opportunities for increased efficiency, productivity, and value.

To put this explosion of data in perspective, every single day the world generates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data, or enough to fill 10 million Blu-Ray discs. But until recently, only 2% of that captured data has been put to meaningful use. Today, we’re not simply increasing the amount of data we gather, but using better analytics to take advantage of the data that’s already available.

When we look at the industrial internet, there are many examples of this trend at work. At GE’s Global Research Center, for example, Jason Nichols and his team of scientists pooled together data from water treatments plants to build computer models called “digital twins.”

In the case of water treatment, a digital twin allows researchers like Nichols to re-create the treatment plant inside a computer system. This virtual model can then be used to run simulations and test solutions before implementing them in the real world. If we were able to apply these insights in every sewage plant worldwide, we could save up to $6 billion globally over the next ten years.

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Increasingly, digital industrial companies are borrowing software tools and data management strategies from the likes of Uber and AirBnB. Uber is the world’s biggest taxi company, and except for its autonomous fleet, it doesn’t own a single taxi. Yet it’s valued at $66 billion. AirBnB, the world’s biggest hotel chain, doesn’t own any property, and yet it’s valued at $30 billion. Both of these companies use data collection and analysis in their business models, and they each see profitable growth year after year.

Although the industrial internet is currently smaller than the consumer internet, by 2025 it will see much higher adoption. The cost savings and efficiency improvements will be considerable. For example, if the digital industrial players use Big Data and analytics to boost efficiency by just 1%, that would translate into $15 trillion added to the global economy over 20 years. And if digital industries can increase productivity by 20%, they could inject as much as $8.6 trillion into the economy per year until 2025.

At GE’s Brilliant Factories, we don’t just add more sensors to multiply our data streams. Rather, we use advanced analytics to leverage the existing data for maximum effect. The new facility that opened in Welland, ON this year is a working example of this data-centric approach. We use lean manufacturing tools to help companies mitigate risk through preventative maintenance, identifying and solving problems before they occur. And we promote consistent, profitable growth through automation and machine performance management. With Big Data empowering the Industrial Internet, the benefits are already substantial. And we’re just getting started.  

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